Civil Discourse Op-Ed: Gas-Powered Vehicles

People fueling the car with gasoline

The Civil Discourse Program, facilitated by Communications professor Mark Urista, has yet again taken on a relevant and debatable issue: banning gas-powered vehicles. With California’s recent steps towards banning gas-powered vehicles, should Oregon follow suit? While it seems like an environmentally-conscious decision, how will the power grid be threatened? What would this mean for the working class? The Civil Discourse Program covers all the angles.

Ban Gas-Powered Vehicles

Authors: Cheyanne Rider, Eliana Ortega, and The Civil Discourse Program

California recently passed a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. Oregon and other states are considering following suit. This may seem like a drastic change in a short time period but it’s a necessary change. There are several benefits to making the switch to electric passenger vehicles.

First, this policy will decrease pollution.  Fossil fuels are the biggest contributors to climate change.  This includes coal, oil, and gas that emit carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.  These gasses can cause a variety of health issues like heart attacks, respiratory disorders, stroke, asthma, and even death.  Gas-powered cars don’t just add to the burning of fossil fuels but also cause noise pollution.  We carry a normal conversation at 60 decibels (dB), but trucks and motorcycles can cause noise between 90-96 dB.  Any sound above 65 dB can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. This affects mental health and can cause cognitive problems.

Second, this policy can reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  In 2021, the United States imported about 8.47 million barrels per day of petroleum from 73 countries. Our dependence on foreign oil has influenced foreign policy for generations. The war between Russia and Ukraine is only the most recent example of how our daily lives (and wallets) are impacted.  Since the war began, the US has blocked Russian imports of oil causing gas prices to rise. This has led President Biden to release oil from strategic reserves and consider lifting sanctions on Iran. These instances have led to bipartisan support for reducing our dependence on foreign oil. In today’s political climate, that kind of cooperation demonstrates how dire the situation really is.

Common concerns about electric vehicles are their longevity and affordability.  Electric car batteries are designed to last as long as the car’s life span.  Many manufacturers offer warranties to replace a battery if needed.  Therefore, the battery should not be an issue.  Data also shows that electric cars are becoming less expensive.  There are many inventions in history whose costs have gone down with popularity.  VCR’s are a great example of an item that was extremely expensive when it first became available but the price continued to drop the more popular it became.  Charging stations are also easy to find.  Whether you prefer to use an app or do a quick Google search, anyone who needs a charge should be able to find one. 

There are many reasons that we should switch to electric vehicles. They can mitigate a significant contributor to global warming, improve our health, and reduce our dependence on foreign energy. This would benefit our environment and have long-lasting benefits for future generations.  

Don’t Ban Gas-Powered Vehicles

Authors: Eagle Hunt, Jacob Pacheco, and The Civil Discourse Program

Banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles seems well-intentioned.  It will encourage more drivers to purchase Electric vehicles (EVs), lower carbon emissions, and help fight climate change.  In reality, this ban would harm our environment, threaten our power grid, and will negatively affect the working class. 

EVs are attractive because they produce no carbon emissions.  However, there is one big question that needs to be answered: Where will we get our electricity to charge the EVs?  In California, a state that recently passed a rule that will ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035 and aims to issue a similar ban on the sale of new diesel trucks by 2040, 50% of their electricity comes from burning natural gases. Basic chemistry tells us that every time you convert one type of energy into another, you lose efficiency.  If we’re so concerned about the environment, why would we burn gas, convert it to electricity, charge a car, and drive the car, all to avoid putting gas directly into the car?  This process is far less efficient than what we’re currently doing.

It is also worth looking at our power grid and seeing if it’s up for the challenge of charging a large number of EVs. CA’s power grid is barely sustaining current demand. The US power grid has been described as “aging and unstable.”  Consider how much stress the grid takes when wildfires and heat waves continue to damage outdated equipment.  Adding more EVs without updating our power system will cause it to crash.  Nobody benefits from that result.

We also need to consider the impact this ban will have on truckers.  Diesel engines are the backbone of our supply chain, construction, farming, and first responder vehicles. A battery simply cannot compete with the durability, strength, and power a diesel engine can produce.  Before any bans on diesel vehicles take effect, we need to have proven, affordable, and accessible replacements ready to go.

Finally, we must consider the costs of this ban.  New EVs cost about  $17,000 more than gas-powered vehicles.  This barrier is very difficult to overcome.  The average cost for a new gas-powered vehicle is already a lot to afford for working-class families.  When you factor in repairs, EVs can be very expensive to fix once they break down.  At a time when inflation is rampant and 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, creating higher costs for personal transportation is harmful and unwise.

EVs are a remarkable technological advancement and offer many perks.  However, we should be careful about forcing drivers to be fully dependent on them.  A strict ban on gas-powered vehicles by 2035 and diesel trucks in 2040 will also increase costs for many people and presents a serious threat to our power grid.  Moreover, the current process of creating electricity is not carbon neutral.  The US, and Oregon in particular, should be wary of following in CA’s footsteps.

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